THE SPELL 11
Only two colors were visible on the surface of Mercury: black and gold. The black was the planet’s land, and its low reflectance meant that even under close illumination from the fierce sun, it remained a sheet of black. The gold was the sun, which occupied a considerable portion of the sky. In its broad wheel you could clearly see the surging of its fiery seas and the sunspots drifting by like black clouds, and, at its edges, the graceful dance of solar prominences.
And on this hard chunk of rock suspended atop the sun’s fiery sea, humanity was planting another small sun.
With the completion of the space elevator, humanity had begun the large-scale exploration of the other planets in the Solar System. Manned spacecraft landings on Mars and the moons of Jupiter had not caused much of a stir because people knew that the purpose of these expeditions was much clearer and more practical than in the past: They were purely intended to establish bases for the defense of the Solar System. These voyages, which relied mainly on chemical-propulsion rockets and spacecraft, were merely the tiniest of steps toward that goal. Initial explorations focused primarily on the outer planets, but as the study of space strategy deepened, neglecting the strategic value of the inner planets was increasingly called into question. Hence the exploration of Venus and Mercury was stepped up, and so it was that the PDC narrowly passed Rey Diaz’s plan to test the stellar hydrogen bomb on Mercury.
Excavating the shaft through the rock of Mercury was the first large-scale engineering project humanity had undertaken on another planet in the Solar System. Because construction could only take place during Mercury’s night, in stretches of eighty-eight Earth days, the project would take three years to complete. However, in the end it only reached one-third of the projected depth, due to the discovery of an unusually hard layer farther down, a mixture of metal and rock. Continued excavation would be much slower and far more costly. Ultimately, it was decided to terminate the project. If tests were carried out at the present depth, the surrounding rock would most certainly be ejected by the blast and would form a crater, making it basically a watered-down atmospheric test. And because of the interference from the surrounding crust, it would be far harder to observe the test’s outcome than with a purely atmospheric test. But Rey Diaz thought that if a cover were fitted onto this crater, it could still serve as a base, and insisted on conducting the test underground at the current depth.
The test was carried out at dawn. Sunrise on Mercury was a process that took over ten hours, and a faint light had just appeared on the horizon. When the detonation countdown reached zero, rings of ripples centered on ground zero spread outward, and the ground on Mercury seemed momentarily to become soft as satin. Then, at the blast site, a mountain slowly rose like the back of a waking giant. When the peak had risen to around three thousand meters, the entire mountain exploded, sending billions of tons of mud and rock flying into the air in a towering display of rage by the ground toward the sky. And alongside the surging ground came the radiant light of the underground nuclear fireball, which shone on the rock and earth flying through the air to cause a grand spectacle of fireworks in the black Mercury sky. The fireball lasted for five minutes, as chunks of rock fell to the ground amid a nuclear glow, before it went out.
Ten hours after the conclusion of the blast, observers noticed that a ring had appeared around Mercury. This was due to the considerable amount of rock that had achieved cosmic velocity in the violent explosion and had turned into myriad satellites of various sizes. They spread out evenly in orbit, making Mercury the first
ringed terrestrial planet. The ring was thin, and as it sparkled in the harsh light of the sun, it looked almost like someone had taken a highlighter to the planet.
Another proportion of the rocks achieved escape velocity and left Mercury behind entirely, becoming satellites of the sun in their own right and forming an extremely sparse asteroid belt in Mercury’s orbit.
* * *
Rey Diaz lived underground not out of any concern for security, but because of his heliophobia. The claustrophobic environment, far removed from the sunshine, made him feel a little more comfortable. He watched the live broadcast of the Mercury test from the basement where he lived. It wasn’t actually live, since the images took about seven minutes to reach Earth. When the blast on Mercury had concluded and the rock rain was still falling in the post-fireball darkness, he received a telephone call from the rotating chair of the PDC, who said that the tremendous power of the stellar hydrogen bombs had made a deep impression on the PDC leadership, and that the permanent member states had requested that the next Wallfacer hearing be held as soon as possible to discuss the bombs’ manufacture and deployment. The chair said that although the number of bombs Rey Diaz had requested was an impossibility, the major powers were indeed interested in the production of this weapon.
Over ten hours after the conclusion of the Mercury test, as he was watching Mercury’s new ring sparkling on the television, a guard’s voice came over the intercom to tell him that his psychiatrist had arrived for an appointment.
“I never asked for any psychiatrist. Send him away!” He felt exasperated, like he had suffered some great indignity.
“Don’t be like that, Mr. Rey Diaz,” said another, calmer voice, evidently the visitor’s. “I can let you see the sun…”
“Get the hell out,” he shouted, but then immediately changed his mind. “No. Seize that idiot and find out where he came from.”
“… because I know the cause of your condition,” the voice continued, still calm. “Mr. Rey Diaz, please believe me. You and I are the only ones in the world who know.”
At this, Rey Diaz suddenly grew alert, and said, “Let him in.” He stared at the ceiling for a few seconds through haggard eyes, then got up slowly and picked up a tie from the cluttered sofa, only to toss it back again. He walked over to the mirror, straightened his collar, and combed his hair with his hands, like he was preparing for a solemn event.
He knew that it was indeed a solemn event.
The visitor was a handsome middle-aged man who walked in but did not introduce himself. He frowned slightly at the room’s heavy odor of cigars and alcohol, then simply stood there calmly as Rey Diaz looked him over.
“Why do I have the feeling I’ve seen you before?” he said, as he looked at the visitor.
“That’s not strange, Mr. Rey Diaz. Everyone says I look like Superman, from the old movies.”
“Do you really believe you’re Superman?” Rey Diaz said. He sat down on the sofa, picked up a cigar, bit off the end, and began to light it.
“That question shows that you already know what kind of man I am. I’m not Superman, Mr. Rey Diaz. Nor are you.” As he spoke, the younger man took a step forward. Rey Diaz found that the man was standing directly in front of him, peering down at him through the cloud of smoke he had just exhaled. So he stood up.
The visitor said, “Wallfacer Manuel Rey Diaz, I am your Wallbreaker.” Gloomily, Rey Diaz nodded.
“May I sit down?” the Wallbreaker asked.
“You may not,” Rey Diaz said, slowly blowing smoke in the other man’s face. “Don’t be depressed,” the Wallbreaker said with a considerate smile.
“I’m not,” Rey Diaz said, his voice cold and hard like stone.
The Wallbreaker walked over to the wall and flipped a switch. Somewhere, ventilator fans started humming.
“Don’t mess with things around here,” Rey Diaz warned.
“You need a little fresh air. And, more than that, you need sun. I’m quite familiar with this room, Wallfacer Rey Diaz. In the images sent by the sophons I have often watched you pace back and forth like a caged beast. No one in the world has stared at you for as long as I have, and on those days, believe me, it wasn’t any easier for me.”
The Wallbreaker looked straight at Rey Diaz, whose expression was as blank as an ice sculpture, and then he went on. “Compared to Frederick Tyler, you are a brilliant strategist. A competent Wallfacer. Please trust that this is not flattery. I must admit that for quite some time, for nearly a decade, you had me fooled. Your mania for the superbomb, such an inefficient weapon in a space battle, successfully concealed your own strategic direction, and for a long while I couldn’t find any clue to crack your true strategy. I struggled in the maze that you laid down, and at one point almost despaired.” The Wallbreaker looked up at the ceiling, overcome by the memory of those difficult times. “Later, I thought of checking out information from before you became a Wallbreaker, but this wasn’t easy, because the sophons were unable to help. You know, in those days, only a limited number of sophons had reached Earth, and as a South American head of state you had not attracted their attention. So I had to resort to conventional means to gather materials. This took three years. In those materials, one man stood out: William Cosmo. You met him in secret on three occasions. The sophons did not record the content of your conversations, so I will never know, but for the head of a small, undeveloped country to meet three times with a Western astrophysicist is highly unusual. We now know that at that time you had already been preparing to become a Wallfacer.
“No doubt what interested you was the fruit of Dr. Cosmo’s research. How those results first came to your attention I am not clear on at this time, but you had a background in engineering, and you had the successful experience of your socialism-loving predecessor, who had equal enthusiasm for a nation ruled by engineers. This was a major reason why you became his successor. So you ought to have had the capability and sensitivity to notice the potential significance of Cosmo’s research.
“Once the Trisolar Crisis began, Dr. Cosmo’s research team worked on studying the atmosphere of the Trisolaran stellar system. They speculated that the atmosphere had been produced by a former planet that had collided with a star. As it collided, it broke apart the outer layers, its photosphere and troposphere, causing the stellar matter inside to be ejected into space and form a surrounding atmosphere. Due to the total irregularity
of the system’s motion, there are times when the stars pass each other quite closely, and at those times, one star’s atmosphere is dispersed by the gravity of the other star, only to be replenished by eruptions on the stellar surface. These aren’t constant eruptions, more like volcanoes that experience sudden outbreaks. This is the reason for the continual contraction and expansion of the stars’ atmosphere. To prove this hypothesis, Cosmo searched the universe to find another star with an atmosphere that was ejected following a collision with a planet. In the third year of the Crisis Era, he succeeded.
“Dr. Cosmo’s team discovered planetary system 275E1, about eighty-four light-years from the Solar System. Hubble II had not gone into operation at that time, so they used the wobble method. By observing and calculating the wobble frequency and light mask, they learned that the planet was quite close to its parent star. At first, this discovery did not attract too much attention because the astronomy community had by then discovered more than two hundred planetary systems, but further observations revealed a shocking fact: The distance between planet and star was continually shrinking, and the rate of shrinkage was accelerating. This meant that humanity would, for the first time, observe a planet falling into a star. One year later—or, rather, eighty-four years prior to observation—it happened. Observational conditions at the time meant that the collision could only be determined based on the gravitational wobble and the periodic light mask. But then something wondrous happened: A spiral of matter appeared around the star, and this spiral flow continued to expand. It looked like a mainspring slowly unwinding with the star as its center. Cosmo and his colleagues realized that the material flow had been ejected from the planet’s crash point. The chunk of rock had crashed through the shell of that distant sun and ejected its stellar matter into space, where, due to the star’s own rotation, it formed a spiral.
“There were several key pieces of data here, sir. The star is a yellow G2 class with an absolute magnitude of
4.3 and a diameter of 1.2 million kilometers. Quite similar to our sun. The planet was about four percent of the mass of Earth, or a little smaller than Mercury, and the spiral cloud of material produced from the collision had a radius of up to three AU, more than the distance between our sun and the asteroid belt.
“And it was in this discovery that I found the crack with which to break open your real strategic plan.
Now, as your Wallbreaker, I will explain your grand strategy.
“Supposing that you are ultimately able to obtain those million or more stellar hydrogen bombs, you will, as you promised to the PDC, stockpile them all on Mercury. If the bombs are detonated in the rock of Mercury, they’ll be like a turbo-engine decelerating the planet. Eventually its speed will no longer be able to keep it in low orbit and it will fall into the sun. Next, what happened on 275E1 eighty-four light-years away is reenacted here: Mercury punctures the sun’s convective shell and ejects a huge amount of stellar matter from its radiation layer into space at high speed; which, as the sun rotates, forms a spiral atmosphere similar to that in 275E1. The sun differs from the Trisolaran system in that, as a lone star, it will never cross paths with another star, and therefore its atmosphere will continue to increase uninhibited until it becomes even thicker than the atmosphere of those stars. This was also confirmed by observations of 275E1. When the spiral flow of ejected matter expands outward from the sun like an unwound mainspring, its thickness eventually passes Mars’s orbit, at which point a magnificent chain reaction begins.
“First, three terrestrial planets—Venus, Earth, and Mars—pass through the sun’s spiraling atmosphere, losing speed due to the atmospheric friction and turning into three giant meteors that eventually crash into the
sun. But well before this happens, the Earth’s atmosphere is stripped away by the intense friction of the solar matter. The oceans evaporate, and the lost atmosphere and evaporated oceans turn the Earth into a giant comet whose tail extends along its orbit to wrap all the way around the sun. The surface of the Earth returns to the fiery magma sea of its birth, where no life can survive.
“When Venus, Earth, and Mars crash into the sun, it exacerbates the sun’s ejection of solar matter into space. The single spiral flow of matter increases to four flows. Because the total mass of those three planets is forty times that of Mercury, and because their higher orbits mean they impact the sun at a much higher speed, each new spiral is ejected with a ferocity tens of times greater than Mercury’s. The existing spiral atmosphere rapidly expands until its edge approaches the orbit of Jupiter.
“Friction produces only a very small deceleration effect on the huge mass of Jupiter, so it is quite some time before the spiral has a noticeable effect on Jupiter’s orbit. But Jupiter’s satellites meet one of the following two fates: friction strips them away from Jupiter and they lose speed and fall into the sun, or they lose speed in Jovian orbit and fall into the liquid planet.
“As the chain reaction continues, the decrease in speed from the spiral atmosphere, though small, is still present, and Jupiter’s orbit gradually decays. This causes it to pass through an increasingly dense atmosphere whose friction accelerates its loss in speed, thereby causing the orbit to decay even more quickly.… In this way, Jupiter eventually falls into the sun, too. Its mass is six hundred times that of the previous four planets, and the impact that such a massive body makes on the sun will, even according to the most conservative reasoning, produce an even more violent ejection of stellar matter, increasing the density of the spiral atmosphere and exacerbating the bitter cold of Uranus and Neptune. But another possibility is more likely: The fall of the Jovian giant pushes the edge of the spiral atmosphere out to the orbit of Uranus or even Neptune, and though the atmosphere is quite thin at the top, friction’s decelerating effects pull these two planets and their satellites toward the sun, too. What state the sun will be in and how the Solar System will have been transformed after the chain reaction finishes and the four dense terrestrial planets and four gas giants are consumed is unknowable. But one thing is certain: For life and for civilization, this will be a hell even crueler than attack by Trisolaris.
“As for Trisolaris, the Solar System is their only hope before their planet is engulfed by their stars. There is no other world they can migrate to in time, and therefore, their civilization will follow humanity into total destruction.
“This is your strategy: death for both sides. Once everything is prepared, with all of the stellar hydrogen bombs in place on Mercury, you will use it to coerce Trisolaris to surrender and gain the ultimate victory for humanity.
“What I’ve just presented is the outcome of the years of work that I, your Wallbreaker, have performed. I am not seeking your opinion or critique, because I know that all of this is true.”
As the Wallbreaker spoke, Rey Diaz had been listening quietly. The cigar in his hand was more than halfway gone, and he now turned it about as if appreciating the glow of the tip.
The Wallbreaker sat down on the sofa, close beside him. Like a teacher evaluating a student’s homework, he continued unfatigued: “Mr. Rey Diaz, I said you are a brilliant strategist, or at least you demonstrated many excellent qualities in the formulation and implementation of this plan.
“For one thing, you took advantage of your own background. Right now, people clearly remember the humiliations you and your country suffered when the Orinoco nuclear facility was forced to be taken down as you were developing nuclear energy. The whole world saw your gloomy face, and you took advantage of outside perceptions of your paranoia about nuclear weapons to reduce or even eliminate any possible suspicion.
“But every detail in the execution of your plan demonstrates your talent as well. I will mention but one example: During the Mercury test, you wanted the rock to be blasted into the sky, but you insisted on excavating an ultra-deep shaft in a farsighted gambit. You quite precisely understood the tolerance of the PDC’s permanent member states for the cost of this enormous undertaking, and that is admirable.
“But you had one major slipup. Why did the first test have to be carried out on Mercury? There would have been plenty of time to bring the bombs there in a later phase, but maybe you got impatient and wanted to see the outcome of a stellar hydrogen bomb blast there. You saw it: lots of rock matter blasted to escape velocity, perhaps even exceeding your expectations. You were satisfied. But this provided the final confirmation of my hypothesis.
“Yes, Mr. Rey Diaz, even given all my previous work, without that final event I might never have been able to determine your true strategic intentions. The notion was too mad. But it was grand, and even beautiful. If the chain reaction triggered by Mercury’s fall actually took place, then it would be the most magnificent movement of the entire symphony of the Solar System … although, unfortunately, humanity would only be able to enjoy the first section. Mr. Rey Diaz, you are a Wallfacer with the makings of a god. It is my honor to become your Wallbreaker.”
The Wallbreaker stood up and offered Rey Diaz a genial bow.
Rey Diaz did not look at him. He took a puff of his cigar and blew out the smoke as he continued to examine it. “Fine. Then I’ll ask the question that Tyler asked.”
The Wallbreaker asked the question for him. “If what I say is true, then so what?” Rey Diaz stared at the lit end of the cigar and nodded.
“My answer is the same as Tyler’s Wallbreaker’s: The Lord does not care.”
Rey Diaz lifted his eyes from the cigar and looked questioningly at his Wallbreaker.
“You look crude, but your mind is sharp. Yet in the depths of your soul, you’re still crude. Your nature is that of a crude man. And this crudeness is revealed in the basis of this strategic plan. It’s greedy. Humanity doesn’t have the ability to manufacture so many stellar hydrogen bombs. Even if all of Earth’s industrial resources were exhausted, it wouldn’t produce even one-tenth of that number. And a million stellar hydrogen bombs is far from enough to decelerate Mercury into the sun. With a soldier’s recklessness, you formulated this impossible plan, and then stubbornly carried it forward step by step with the wily calculations of a superior strategist. Wallfacer Rey Diaz, this is truly a tragedy.”
As Rey Diaz looked at the Wallbreaker, his expression gradually filled with an elusive softness, and hints of convulsions showed on his coarsely lined face, gradually taking shape, until at last his suppressed laughter erupted.
“Ha ha ha ha ha…” he laughed, pointing at the Wallbreaker. “Superman! Ha ha ha ha. I remember now. That … that old Superman. He could fly, and he could reverse the rotation of the Earth, but when he was
riding a horse … ha ha ha ha … when he was riding a horse, he fell and broke his neck … ah ha ha ha…”
“It was Christopher Reeve, the actor who played Superman, who fell and broke his neck,” the Wallbreaker corrected him, quietly.
“Do you imagine … imagine that your fate will be better than his? Ha ha ha ha…”
“Since coming here, I have no regard for my fate. I’ve lived a full life,” the Wallbreaker said evenly. “But you, Mr. Rey Diaz, ought to think about your own fate.”
“You’ll die first,” Rey Diaz said, smiling with his entire face as he pressed the cigar end directly between the Wallbreaker’s eyes. Then, when the Wallbreaker was covering his face with his hands, Rey Diaz took up a military-issue belt from the sofa, wrapped it around the Wallbreaker’s neck, and strangled him with every ounce of his strength. Although the Wallbreaker was young, he had no way to defend himself against Rey Diaz’s agile strength, and was thrown to the floor by his neck. Rey Diaz bellowed, “I’ll wring your neck! You bastard! Who sent you here to play smart? Who the hell are you? Bastard! I’ll wring your neck!” He tightened the belt and slammed the Wallbreaker’s head into the ground repeatedly, to the crunch of teeth smacking into the floor. When the guards burst in to separate them, the Wallbreaker’s face was purple, he was foaming at the mouth, and his eyes were protruding like a goldfish’s.
Rey Diaz, still in a fury, struggled with the guards as he continued to shout, “Wring his neck! String him up and hang him! Right now! This is part of the plan! Do you fucking hear me? Part of the plan!”
But the three guards did not carry out his order. One of them held Rey Diaz tightly while the other two lifted up the Wallbreaker, who had recovered his breath somewhat, and started to carry him out.
“Just wait, you bastard. You won’t die easy,” he said, abandoning his efforts to escape the guard and have another go at the Wallbreaker. He let out a long sigh.
The Wallbreaker looked back over the guard’s shoulder, a smile on his bruised and swollen face. He opened up a mouth that was missing several teeth and said, “I’ve lived a full life.”
PDC Wallfacer Hearing
As the meeting commenced, the United States, United Kingdom, France, and Germany put up another proposition, this one demanding the immediate suspension of Rey Diaz’s position as Wallfacer and his trial before the International Court of Justice for crimes against humanity.
The US representative declared, “After substantial investigation, we believe that Rey Diaz’s strategic intent as disclosed by the Wallbreaker is credible. What we are facing now is a person whose crime dwarfs all of the crimes ever committed in human history. We were unable to find a single law applicable to his crime, so we recommend that the crime of Extinction of Life on Earth be added to international law, and that Rey Diaz be tried under it.”
Rey Diaz appeared quite relaxed at the hearing. Sneering, he said to the US representative, “You’ve been trying to get rid of me, haven’t you? Ever since the Wallfacer Project began, you have all applied a double standard to the Wallfacers. I’m the one you like least.”
The UK representative retorted, “Wallfacer Rey Diaz’s claim is baseless. In fact, the countries he is accusing are the ones who invested the most money into his plan, far exceeding what they invested in the other three Wallfacers.”
“Sure,” Rey Diaz said with a nod, “but the real reason you invested so heavily in my plan is because you
wanted to get your hands on the stellar hydrogen bombs.”
“Ridiculous! What would we do with them?” the US representative shot back. “They’re incredibly inefficient weapons in a space battle, and on the Earth, there’s no practical significance even for those old twenty-megaton hydrogen bombs, much less a three-hundred-megaton monster.”
Rey Diaz responded calmly, “But the bombs will be the most effective weapon in battles on other planets, particularly in wars among humans. On the desolate surface of other planets, there’s no need to be concerned with civilian casualties or environmental damage, so you’re free to carry out wide-area destruction, or even a devastating sweep of the entire surface. Here’s where the stellar hydrogen bombs will prove useful. You must have anticipated that, as humanity expands into the Solar System, Earth’s conflicts will expand outward as well. This won’t change even with Trisolaris as a common enemy, and you’re preparing for it. Right now, it’s politically indefensible to develop superweapons for use against humans, so you took advantage of me to make them.”
The US representative said, “That’s the preposterous logic of a terrorist and a dictator. Rey Diaz is the kind of man who, granted the status and power of a Wallfacer, turns the Wallfacer Project into as big a danger as the Trisolaran invasion. We must take decisive action to correct this mistake.”
“They’re as good as their word,” Rey Diaz said, turning to Garanin, the incumbent rotating chair. “The CIA has men waiting outside to arrest me as soon as I go outside after this hearing.”
The rotating chair glanced in the direction of the US representative, who was fiddling intently with his pen. Garanin had first taken office at the start of the Wallfacer Project, and even he had forgotten the number of short terms in office he had served during the ensuing two decades. But this was the last time. Now white- haired, he was about to retire.
“Wallfacer Rey Diaz, if what you say is true, then that is inappropriate. So long as the principles of the Wallfacer Project still hold, Wallfacers have legal immunity, and none of their words and actions can be used as evidence to charge them of a crime,” he said.
“Additionally, please remember that this is international territory,” the Japanese representative said.
“So does that mean,” the US representative said, raising a pencil, “that even when Rey Diaz is about to detonate the million superbombs he’s buried on Mercury, society still won’t be able to charge him with a crime?”
“According to the relevant provisions in the Wallfacer Act, placing limitations and curbs on the strategic plans of Wallfacers who exhibit dangerous tendencies is an entirely separate matter from the Wallfacer’s own legal immunity,” Garanin said.
“Rey Diaz’s crimes have crossed outside the boundary of legal immunity. He must be punished. This is a precondition for the continued existence of the Wallfacer Project,” the UK representative said.
“May I remind the chair and the representatives,” Rey Diaz said, rising from his seat, “that this is a PDC Wallfacer hearing, and that I’m not on trial.”
“You’ll stand in court soon,” the US representative said, with a chilly smile.
“I agree with Wallfacer Rey Diaz. We should return to the discussion of his strategic plan,” Garanin said, seizing the opportunity to temporarily bypass the thorny issue.
The Japanese representative broke his silence. “From the way it looks now, the representatives have
reached a consensus on the following point: Rey Diaz’s strategic plan exhibits dangerous tendencies toward clear violations of human rights, and according to the relevant principles in the Wallfacer Act, it should be stopped.”
“Then Proposition P269, proposed at the previous Wallfacer hearing, regarding halting Rey Diaz’s strategic plan, can now be put to a vote,” Garanin said.
“Mr. Chair, wait one moment.” Rey Diaz raised his hand. “Before the vote, I hope I might be able to offer a final explanation of some of the details of my plan.”
“If they’re just details, is this really necessary?” someone asked. “Save it for court,” the UK representative said sarcastically.
“No, these details are important,” Rey Diaz persisted. “Right now, let us assume that what the Wallbreaker has disclosed about my strategic intentions is true. One representative spoke of the moment when the million hydrogen bombs deployed on Mercury are ready to be detonated, at which point I will face the omnipresent sophons and declare to Trisolaris humanity’s intent to die with them. What will happen then?”
“The Trisolarans’ reaction can’t be predicted, but on Earth, it’s certain that billions of people will want to wring your neck, just like you did to that Wallbreaker,” the French representative said.
“Exactly. So I took certain measures to deal with such a situation. Take a look at this.” Rey Diaz raised his left hand and displayed his wristwatch to the assembly. It was entirely black, and the dial was twice as large and thick as a normal men’s watch, although it didn’t appear large on his thick wrist. “This is a transmitter sending a signal through a space link directly to Mercury.”
“You’ll use it to send the detonation signal?” someone asked. “Precisely the opposite. It sends a non-detonation signal.”
His words focused the attention of the entire assembly. He went on: “The system is code-named ‘cradle,’ meaning that when the cradle stops rocking, the baby will wake. It sends a continuous signal, received continuously on Mercury. If the signal is interrupted, then the system will immediately detonate the hydrogen bomb.”
“It’s called a dead-man’s switch,” the US representative said stoically. “In the Cold War there was research into using anti-triggers and dead-man’s switches on strategic nukes, but they were never implemented. Only a madman would actually do it.”
Rey Diaz brought down his left hand and covered the cradle with his sleeve. “I was taught this wonderful idea not by an expert in nuclear strategy but by an American film. In it, a man has one of these gadgets that sends out a continuous signal, but if his heart stops beating, the signal is terminated. Another man has a bomb strapped to him that’s impossible to remove, and if the bomb doesn’t receive the signal, it’ll explode. So even though this hapless fool doesn’t like the first guy, he has to do everything he can to protect him.… I like watching American blockbusters. Even today I can still recognize the old version of Superman.”
“Do you mean that this device is tied to your heartbeat?” the Japanese representative asked. He reached over to Rey Diaz, who was standing next to him, to touch the device under his sleeve, but Rey Diaz moved his arm and stood a bit farther away.
“Of course. But the cradle is more advanced and refined than that. It monitors not just the heartbeat but lots of other physiological indicators such as blood pressure, body temperature, and so forth, and conducts a
comprehensive analysis of these parameters. If they’re not normal, then it immediately stops the anti-trigger signal in the dead-man’s switch. It can also recognize many of my simple voice commands.”
A nervous-looking man entered the auditorium and whispered something into Garanin’s ear. Before he had finished whispering, Garanin glanced up at Rey Diaz with a peculiar look in his eyes, which did not escape the keen-eyed representatives.
“There’s a way to disarm your cradle. Countermeasures for anti-triggers were studied during the Cold War, too,” the US representative said.
“It’s not my cradle. It’s the cradle for those hydrogen bombs. If the cradle stops rocking, they’ll wake up,” Rey Diaz said.
“I’ve thought of the same technique,” the German representative said. “When the signal is transmitted from your watch to Mercury, it must pass through a complicated communications link. Destroying or shielding any node, then using a false signal source to continue to transmit the anti-trigger signal farther down the chain, will render your cradle system useless.”
“That is indeed a problem,” Rey Diaz said, with a nod at the German representative. “Without the sophons, the problem is easily solved. All the nodes are loaded with an identical encryption algorithm that generates every signal sent. To the outside world, it looks as if the signal values are random and different every time, but the cradle’s sender and recipient produce a sequence of values that are identical. Only when the recipient receives a signal corresponding to its own sequence is the signal considered valid. Without this encryption algorithm, the signal sent out by your false source won’t match the recipient’s sequence. But the damn sophons can detect the algorithm.”
“You’ve perhaps come up with another approach?” someone asked.
“A crude approach. Me, all my approaches are clumsy and crude,” Rey Diaz said, with a self-mocking laugh. “I have increased the sensitivity of each node’s monitoring of its own state. Specifically, each communication node is composed of several units that may be separated by a large distance, but are connected into a whole by continuous communication. If any one unit fails, the entire node will issue a command terminating the anti-trigger, after which, even if the false signal source resumes sending a signal to the next node, it will not be acknowledged. The monitoring of every unit can achieve a microsecond level of accuracy, which means that—using the German representative’s approach—every unit of a node must be simultaneously destroyed and the signal resumed from the false signal source within the space of a microsecond. Every node is composed of at least three units, but may have dozens of them. These units are separated by a distance of about three hundred kilometers. Each one is built to be extremely rugged, and it will issue its warning upon any outside touch. Causing these units to fail within the space of a microsecond might be possible for the Trisolarans, but it’s not currently possible for humans.”
His final sentence put everyone on alert.
“I have just received a report that the thing on Rey Diaz’s wrist has been sending out an electromagnetic signal,” Garanin said. The atmosphere of the assembly turned tense at the news. “I’d like to ask you, Wallfacer Rey Diaz: Is the signal from your wristwatch being sent to Mercury?”
Rey Diaz chuckled a few times, then said, “Why would I be sending it to Mercury? There’s nothing there but a giant pit. Besides, the cradle’s space communication link hasn’t been set up yet. No, no, no. You don’t
need to worry. The signal isn’t going to Mercury. It’s going somewhere in New York City, very close to us.” The air froze, and everyone in the assembly, apart from Rey Diaz, stood as shocked as wooden chickens. “If the signal sustaining the cradle is terminated, what will it trigger?” the UK representative asked sharply,
no longer attempting to mask his tension.
“Oh, something will be triggered, all right,” Rey Diaz said to him with a broad laugh. “I’ve been a Wallfacer for more than twenty years, and I’ve always been able to get a few things of my own.”
“Well then, Mr. Rey Diaz, would you be able to answer an even more direct question?” the French representative said. He looked entirely calm, but there was a tremble in his voice. “How many lives will you, or will we, be responsible for?”
Rey Diaz widened his eyes at the Frenchman, as if he thought the question bizarre. “What? The number of people makes a difference? I thought all of you here were respectable gentlemen who prize human rights above all. What’s the difference between one life and 8.2 million? If it’s the former, then you don’t have to respect it?”
The US representative stood up and said, “More than twenty years ago when the Wallfacer Project began, we pointed out what he was.” Pointing a finger at Rey Diaz and spraying saliva as he spoke, he strove to contain himself, but ended up losing control. “He’s a terrorist. An evil, filthy terrorist! A devil! You unstopped the bottle and let him loose, and you must take responsibility! The UN must be held responsible!” he shouted hysterically, sending his papers flying.
“Calm down, Mr. Representative,” Rey Diaz said with a slight smile. “The cradle is very sensitive to my physiological indices. If I were to go into hysterics like you, if my mood wavered, it would immediately stop sending the anti-trigger signal. So you, and all of you sitting here, shouldn’t make me too upset. It would be better for all of us if you could try and keep me happy.”
“What are your conditions?” Garanin asked softly.
A bit of sadness crept into the smile on Rey Diaz’s face as he turned toward Garanin and shook his head. “Mr. Chair, what other conditions could I name? To leave here and return to my own country. A charter plane is waiting for me at Kennedy Airport.”
The assembly was silent. Unconsciously, they had all gradually turned their attention from Rey Diaz to the US representative, who, unable to stand all the eyes on him, threw himself back into his chair and hissed, “Get the hell out.”
Rey Diaz slowly nodded, then stood up and walked out.
“Mr. Rey Diaz, I’ll take you home,” Garanin said, leaving the rostrum.
Rey Diaz stood waiting for Garanin as he walked over, less nimbly than before. “Thank you, Mr. Chair. I thought you might like to get out of here too.”
The two were at the door when Rey Diaz grabbed Garanin and turned with him back toward the auditorium. “Gentlemen, I won’t miss this place. I’ve wasted these two decades, and no one here understands me. I want to go back to my homeland, back to my people. Yes, my homeland and my people. I miss them.”
To everyone’s surprise, the big man’s eyes shone with tears. At last he said, “I want to go back to my homeland. This is not part of the plan.”
When he walked out the door of the UN General Assembly building, Rey Diaz opened his arms wide to
the sun and called out with relish, “Ah, my sun!” His two-decade-long heliophobia had vanished. Rey Diaz’s flight took off, and crossed the eastern coastline to fly over the vast Atlantic Ocean.
In the cabin, Garanin said to him, “With me here, this aircraft is safe. Please tell me the location of the device you have connected to the dead-man’s switch.”
“There’s no device. There’s nothing. It was just a trick to escape.” Rey Diaz took off his watch and handed it to Garanin. “This is just a simple transmitter converted from a Motorola phone. It’s not connected to my heartbeat, either. It’s been turned off. Keep it as a souvenir.”
For a long time neither of them spoke. Then Garanin sighed and said, “How did this happen? The Wallfacers’ privilege of sealed-off strategic thinking was meant to be used against the sophons and Trisolaris. But you and Tyler both used it against humanity.”
“There’s nothing strange about that,” Rey Diaz said. He sat next to the window, enjoying the sunlight shining in from the outside. “Right now, the greatest obstacle to humanity’s survival comes from itself.”
Six hours later, the plane touched down at Caracas International Airport on the Caribbean coast. Garanin did not get off. He would be taking the plane back to the UN.
When they parted, Rey Diaz said, “Don’t abort the Wallfacer Project. It really is a hope amid this war.
There are still two Wallfacers. Please wish them the best for me.”
“I won’t be seeing them, either,” Garanin said, with emotion. By the time Rey Diaz walked off, leaving him alone in the cabin, he was in tears.
The sky over Caracas was as clear as in New York. Rey Diaz walked down the airstair and smelled the familiar tropical atmosphere, then bent down and gave a long kiss to the ground of his homeland. Then, guarded by a large detachment of military police, he took a motorcade to the city. After half an hour on a winding mountain road, they entered the capital and drove up to the city center and Plaza Bolívar. At the statue of Simón Bolívar, Rey Diaz got out of the car and stood on the statue’s base. Above him on horseback was the great armor-clad hero who had defeated the Spanish and tried to establish a unified Republic of Gran Colombia in South America. In front of him, a crowd of frenetic people boiled under the sun, swelling forward, only to be met with the vigorous resistance of the military police. Shots were fired into the air, but the tide of people eventually surged past the police line and poured toward the living Bolívar at the foot of the statue.
Rey Diaz held up his hands, and, with tears in his eyes, called out to the crowd in a voice dripping with emotion, “Ah, my people!”
The first stone thrown by his people struck him on his outstretched left hand, the second hit him in the chest, and the third smashed into his forehead and nearly knocked him out. After that, the people’s stones came like raindrops, and had practically buried his lifeless body by the end. The last stone that hit Wallfacer Rey Diaz was thrown by an old woman, who struggled to carry it up to his corpse, then said, in Spanish, “Evildoer! You would kill everyone. My grandson would have been there. You’d have killed my grandson!”
Then, using all the strength in her trembling hands, she slammed her stone against Rey Diaz’s broken skull, where it lay exposed beneath the pile of rocks.
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